Down the Mississippi

Often when we think South – as in Deep South, Mississippi is one of the first places that springs to mind. Mississippi was the 20th state to join the union, and the 2nd to secede. More than 80,000 Mississippians fought in the Civil War. They did not fight on the side of the Union. Yet the first Memorial Day took place in Mississippi to lay flowers on the graves of those who died on both sides.

Sadly, the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery in 1865, wasn’t ratified in Mississippi until 2013. Lawmakers finally voted to ratify the amendment in 1995, but the paperwork was never sent to the U.S. Archivist to make it official. The oversight (if you want to call it that) was discovered and corrected 18 years later.

On a positive note, there are more churches per capita in Mississippi than any other state.

These churches aren’t just buildings taking up space. More folks attend church regularly in Mississippi, too.

When we say the catfish are jumping, Mississippi takes that to heart. Ole Miss is known as the Farm-raised Catfish Capital of the World, with an estimated 100,000 acres of catfish pools statewide.

Most of us know that the Teddy Bear was named after President Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt. While on a bear hunting trip in Mississippi in November 1902, Teddy refused to shoot a captured black bear. He felt it was unsportsmanlike to shoot an exhausted animal tied to a willow tree. Morris Michtom saw the publication featuring Roosevelt and was inspired to create the loveable teddy bear.

Most of us are familiar with Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. But did you know that the 1865 novel’s main character, Alice was based on a real girl? Her name was Alice Liddel of Oxford Mississippi. Her father was the dean of the Christ Church in Oxford. His friend, Charles Dodgson spent much time with Alice and her family. Dodgson was better known by his pen name, Lewis Carroll.

Biloxi, Mississippi features the longest man-made beach in the world. Biloxi’s economy is dependent on three things – seafood, tourism and gambling. When Mississippi legalized gambling in the 1990s, Biloxi became the hub for casinos. And rightfully so, since Biloxi had been a popular destination spot with the increase of railroad access after the Civil War. As for the beautiful white sandy beaches of Biloxi, they did not exist before 1951 when Harrison County dredged the first sands to create a 300-foot wide beach.

When you settle down to a meal in Mississippi, you might be incline to have catfish, or fried chicken or anything else that is both southern and fried. But don’t forget, Mississippi, like it’s Louisiana neighbor, also has a Cajun Bayou influence. And let’s face it, Bayou cooking translates to one thing – good eating!

Mississippi Iron Skillet Supper
Bayou Skillet Chicken with Corn
Southern Skillet Cornbread
Cast Iron Barbecue Beans

Bayou Skillet Chicken with Corn
3 ears Corn
4 Bone-in Chicken Thighs
Slap Yo Mamma Cajun Seasoning to taste
2 tablespoons Olive Oil
2 Limes
Parsley for garnish

Heat oven to 400 degrees. 

Shuck, clean and trim corn. Cut each ear into 3 pieces, set aside.

Gently lift skin and rub a little Cajun Seasoning on the meat. Turn, rum seasoning into the underside of the thighs. The season skin generously with seasoning, set aside.

Heat olive oil in large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken skin-side down to skillet. Sear thighs for about 2 or 3 minutes. Turn skin side up, cook for another 3 or 4 minutes. Remove seared chicken from pan and set aside.

Add corn to the now empty skillet. Cook, rotating, until corn has a nice char on it, about 3 minutes per roll. Return chicken to skillet. 

Bake skillet in the heated oven for about 25 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through and juices run clear. Remove from oven.

Cut 1 lime in half. Squeeze half of a lime all over chicken thighs and corn. Slice remaining limes into wedges, tuck into skillet to serve with the chicken.

Finely mince parsley for color, sprinkle around the skillet. Serve and enjoy.

Southern Skillet Cornbread
4 teaspoons Bacon Drippings
1-1/2 cup Yellow Cornmeal
1/2 cup Flour
2 tablespoons Sugar (or to taste)
1/2 teaspoon Salt
2 tablespoons Baking Powder
1 tablespoon Baking Soda
1/2 cup rapidly boiling Water
1 cup Buttermilk
1 large Egg, beaten lightly

A “must” for this bread is a hot cast-iron skillet. Although the bread can be made in a cake pan or square casserole dish, that would just be too “Yankee” to do the bread justice. Adjust oven rack to lower middle position and heat oven to 450 degrees. Set 8-inch cast iron skillet with bacon fat in it to heat oven.

Measure 1/2 cup cornmeal into medium bowl. Set aside.

Mix remaining 1 cup cornmeal, flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and baking soda in small bowl; set aside.

Pour boiling water all at once into the 1/2 cup cornmeal; stir to make a stiff mush. Whisk in buttermilk gradually, breaking up lumps until smooth. Cornmeal mush of just the right texture is essential to this bread. The mush must be smooth without overworking the batter. Don’t rush the buttermilk and you’ll have less lumps to break up. Once the mush is ready, add the egg.

When oven is preheated and skillet very hot, stir dry ingredients into mush mixture until just moistened. Carefully remove skillet from oven. Pour hot bacon fat into batter and stir to incorporate, then quickly pour batter into heated skillet.

Place skillet back into the oven, then immediately lower the temperature of the oven to 425 degrees.

Bake until golden brown, about 15-20 minutes. Remove from oven and instantly turn corn bread onto wire rack; cool for 5 minutes, then serve immediately.

Cast Iron Barbecue Beans
2 cans (19 oz) Navy Beans
1 can (16 oz) Pinto Beans
5 slices Bacon
1/2 Yellow Onion
1 Orange Bell Pepper
1-3/4 cups Ketchup
1 cup Barbecue Sauce
3/4 cup Brown Sugar
1/4 cup Molasses
2 tablespoons Hot Sauce
1 teaspoon Liquid Smoke
1/2 teaspoons Cayenne Pepper
1 teaspoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon Black Pepper

Empty cans of beans into a colander. Rinse and let drain.

Stack bacon, cut in half lengthwise, then dice into pieces. Set aside. Cut onion in half. Reserve half for another use, peel and mince remaining half an onion. Set aside. Stem, core and dice bell pepper, set aside.

Fry bacon in a cast iron skillet on stovetop over medium heat. Stir the bacon around regularly to prevent burning.

Once the bacon has begun to brown, add diced onions and bell pepper. Sauté until the onions are transparent. Remove from heat.

Dump beans into the skillet. Add Ketchup, barbecue sauce, brown sugar, molasses, hot sauce and liquid smoke. Season with cayenne pepper, salt and pepper. Stir well to blend all the flavors and coat the beans in a sauce.

Return skillet to heat, and simmer on low until headed through, about 20 minutes.

For that Southern Rustic feel, serve everything straight from the skillets. Enjoy!

Author: Rosemarie's Kitchen

I'm a wife, mother, grandmother and avid home cook.I believe in eating healthy whenever possible, while still managing to indulge in life's pleasures.

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